A Google Thunder-Steal? Apple Marks 3 Billion App Milestone Today

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Apple said Tuesday that more than 3 billion apps have been downloaded to iPhone and iPod Touch devices from its wildly popular App Store. The milestone, confirmed by Apple in a press release, comes four months after Apple said it hit 2 billion apps downloaded in September, and about a year and a half after the App Store was launched.

The news allows Apple to steal a bit of thunder from emerging rival Google, which is supposedly set to announce its Nexus One smartphone -- and tout the growth of its own Android Market app community -- in a media event Tuesday.

"Three billion applications downloaded in less than 18 months--this is like nothing we've ever seen before," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement. "The revolutionary App Store offers iPhone and iPod Touch users an experience unlike anything else available on other mobile devices, and we see no signs of the competition catching up anytime soon."

Apple's App Store has been one of the tech industry's great success stories, despite ongoing criticism that Apple's approval process for apps is unfair and that the App Store itself is becoming unwieldy.

In November 2009, the number of approved applications in the App Store hit 100,000, and while not all app developers have seen the enormous, fortune-making paydays of, say, Tapulous and its Tap Tap Revenge app, app development on the Apple platform has been nothing short of robust.

Apple also noted that the iPhone and iPod Touch are available in 77 countries, and the App Store carries apps in 20 categories, from news and sports to games and travel.

Touting the 3 billion apps served is as much a tactical manuever for Apple as it is an impressive milestone, coming on the same day that Google is expected to reveal Nexus One.

While the Android Market is nowhere near the size, scope and cultural force of Apple's App Store, Android app development has also spiked in the past year. The Android Market numbered more than 20,000 applications in mid-December, and many observers expect it to reach more than 50,000 by the end of 2010 as part of an Android app explosion.

The showdown between Apple and Google is already one of the big stories of the new year, with both companies stealing thunder from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week thanks to Google's planned Nexus One launch and buzz over whether Apple will use a late January media event to unveil its long-rumored tablet device.

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